Cross one random thing off my life’s bucket list. For Pi Day this year, we were gifted with a snowstorm that shut down the city for 36 hours (including leading to the cancelation of an Improv show I would otherwise have been in, boo!). The whole city – at least those in it who had office jobs – got work-from-home days on Pi Day. My partner and I both decided to make pies in honor of the occasion.
I have always wondered why other people could beat egg whites into stiff peaks, but I never could. I have gone my entire life unable to make a meringue, custard, french silk pie, or banana cream pie despite otherwise being a pretty good cook and/or baker. I have tried all the tricks I have read about over the years – chilled metal bowls, tilting the bowl and doing an undulating mixing motion with my beater and/or hand mixer for an optimal mixing motion – and I do mean everything. I once asked a chemical engineer about chemical admixtures and fluid dynamics just to determine if he could help me make a meringue. He could not, but he could make one himself. And, he assured me there really was something to the tilted bowl and optimal mixing stroke thing I had read about from the literature in general. It works for concrete as well as meringues.
Before I got an upgraded diagnosis,* I interpreted my continual meringue “failure” as just that – true failure on my part. I thought it meant I was a lousy baker because aren’t meringues kind of one of the “five mother sauces” of pies? It’s kind of disheartening when RSD shows up in the kitchen. The kitchen should be a failure-free zone, because, as my Partner says, “if you mess up, you can still eat the evidence.” But, no, I blamed myself for my meringue failures anyway. Well, it turns out it was probably an early bit of evidence – along with ankles that kept giving out during soccer leading me to be medically retired, early carpal tunnel and “double jointed” hands that made a no-nonsense Eastern European strings teacher tell me point blank that I should give it up because I couldn’t hold my bow well enough to be any good at it – that I’m hypermobile. I’m medically excused from meringues, too.
But, I’m older and wiser now and I have better kitchen equipment. I’ve learned that it’s okay to ask for accommodations if you have a chronic illness, including in the kitchen. There’s no shame in a little help. My particular unexpected accommodation for my own bomb-o-genetics came this Christmas in the form of a fancy KitchenAid stand mixer given to us by my Partner’s parents. I progressed from a lifetime of failure to, in 2018, both understanding the root cause of my prior failures and being able to make a meringue at literally the touch of a button. (I did have to make my Partner put it in the oven and take it out later. I also randomly drop things sometimes and unset meringue fillings and/or fresh-out-of-the-oven meringues are not something I want to risk dropping!)
I wasn’t a cooking failure after all: just too poor in grad school to afford a stand mixer. With that knowledge, whole worlds of homemade whipped creams, Boston cream pies, and more have opened to me! For now, though, enjoy some pictures of my first ever lemon meringue pie and custard. I also include my Partner’s apple pie as a shout-out to him. They are a little toasty on top, but that is because we didn’t realize our new oven ran to the extra-hot side of 350. I’m still willing to eat the evidence.
*What subtype you ask? Well, presumably just hypermobile, but ask me after the genetic test results come back. I have a side of my family that I don’t know a lot about that also raised some flags in the review, so good to rule out anything more serious with a full genetics test. Presumably hypermobile unless I say otherwise in a few weeks. Hope I don’t say otherwise for my sake! Hypermobile is supposedly the least severe subtype, as well as not having a clear genetic marker yet.